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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2154

Russian "active measures" target Western democracy;
New moves in Moscow's war on a free Internet

Edited by Amanda Azinheira, Evelyn Johns and Jack Verser
September 26, 2017

August 12:

Ukrainian news agency UAWire reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted a draft federal law to permit the use of air defenses on Belarus' common border with Ukraine. The law would implement a border security protocol signed in November 2016 in Minsk that establishes a system of defense for a unified airspace along the border of the "Union State" of Russia and Belarus. Putin has urged the Duma to ratify this protocol as a contribution to the security of both states. According to the Duma website, the addition of air defense to the agreement "will not require additional appropriations from the federal budget."

August 13:

U.S. and European intelligence officials are concerned by evidence of Russia's increasing use of "active measures" - information warfare used by Russian military and intelligence services to influence the domestic affairs and political direction of other nations.
According to a report in the magazine Wired, intensifying investigations of the Kremlin's disinformation campaigns have revealed that the Russian government is actively involved in efforts to subvert Western democracies.

Wired breaks down Russia's efforts into a number of lines of effort, including (1) Disinformation - information influence operations like state sponsored news, internet trolls, media bots; (2) Cyber - gathering classified information, financial fraud, threatening critical infrastructure and Kremlin opponents; (3) Energy - using exports of oil and gas to politically manipulate Europe; (4) Money - foreign investments in Russian companies create conflicts of interest for those investors domestically; (5) Violence - intimidation and suspicious deaths of Kremlin opponents. The end goal of these tactics, however, is the same: to degrade confidence in democratic institutions and Western democracy itself.

August 15:

Russian and Belarusian forces are preparing for another iteration of "Zapad," the joint military drills between the two countries that occur every four years. While foreign defense attaches and organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been invited to watch portions of the exercise, Western powers remain wary of the exercise and its potential implications,
reports CNN. Moscow has previously used the large-scale troop movements associated with "Zapad" to begin real large-scale military invasions in such places as Georgia and Ukraine.

According to the Ukrainian news outlet 112 International, the OSCE's Special Military Monitor in Ukraine has confirmed the presence of Russian military personnel in the Donbas region. Alexander Hug, the OSCE missions Principal Deputy Chief Monitor, has specifically noted seeing military and electronic warfare units bearing Russian designations in the area. The presence reflects that Moscow remains deeply involved in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and is actively supporting separatist activity there.

August 16:

In order to further increase government control over the internet, the Russian Communications Ministry has drafted an amendment to restrict ownership of Russia's internet exchange points,
reports the Meduza news portal. The amendment would prevent domestic internet service providers (ISPs) from connecting to exchange points owned by foreign citizens, companies, or countries, and would restrict foreign ownership in any company owning an exchange point to 20 percent. Additionally, the Communications Ministry wants to establish a state registry of legal exchange points and create a system that tracks communication between ISPs and Russia's IP address database.

August 18:

Rights watchdog Human Rights Watch has warned that Russia now considers feminist gatherings to be extremist activity,
reports London's Independent newspaper. The group has publicized the recent arrest by Russian police of five feminist activists for allegedly "breaching public order." The women were staying at a cottage en route to a feminist camp gathering in the Black Sea region. They were released after being searched, questioned, and forced to write statements explaining the reason for their trip. The group travelled on to the planned camp site, where they claim a Cossack group demanded to see their papers. Cossack groups are alleged to have previously threatened the planned feminist gathering, seeing such ideas as a contradiction of "traditional values." Police arrived on the scene, but rather than being protected as victims, the women were brought to the station for questioning and again warned against perpetrating "extremist activity."

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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